Review: After Camus 

Both an homage to Camus and a commentary on the complex world humanity must still navigate today, Jay Neugeboren’s new novel After Camus is to be savored by Camus fans, French literature lovers, and literary writers alike. And for those who traversed France in their youth, it may bring back memories to savor. 

Jay Neugeboren’s most recent novel After Camus tracks the story of a married couple’s relationship. Their meeting takes place following Camus’ unexpected death, but Camus and his philosophy touch every scene, hauntingly so–sometimes standing in the shadow of a phrase, sometimes as a ghostly character who survives death in the protagonists’ minds and work. Female protagonist Tolle’s fleeting affair with Camus and the inspiration it engendered follows her, even 40 years into a now-troubled marriage. Her partner, male protagonist Saul, becomes a research scientist, also inspired–by Camus’ The Plague.  The resulting story is an intersection between the rational and scientific with the imaginative passion of artistic expression, reaching across the last six decades to connect the Vietnam War protests to today’s wars and protests, the TB epidemic to the HIV/AIDS pandemic to Covid-19. And of course, with migration and immigration, war after war, only the borders have moved from one century to another. 

After Camus manages to tie our 21st-century laments to Camus’ life and works, exploring how mind, sexual intimacy, and imagination intertwine, how often memory and legacy give us hope more than irate activists, living scientists, and idealistic humanitarians. It leaves the reader pondering all the ways the past informs the present. 

Plus ca changeeh?  One can almost hear Camus’ wry whisper.

Camus didn’t enjoy being called an existentialist, but he definitely lived and died with existential irony. This book, which has its own ironies, offers both tribute to Camus and solace for the rest of us in these tricky times (and perhaps for as long as war, pestilence, and politics swirl around us). To be human is to know both suffering and desire. Though the things that make us suffer bridge time and space, so do love and art.

 It may be a rare occurrence in 2024 for lovers to quote a philosopher or novelist, but for one who did just that in youth, who fell in love between verses of a sonnet, this is a precious book, which can provide those who dare tread its literary pages a certain map, with some optimism for the world’s future. Can love and the family unit remain steadfast? Can humanity rise above the groans of a heavy universe? Only if the human mind and heart allow it–through memory–the recollection of the moment life’s passion lit our lives. But After Camus shows that the echo of the impact of love might be all that remains to inspire our future.

— Kathryn Brown Ramsperger, Author of The Shores of Our Souls and A Thousand Flying Things

You can find more information about the author and all his titles at his website: 

Jayneugeboren.com